Updated with photo  credits, June 24, 2017, 11:22 AM

Toronto, Ontario

Filipino Canadian takes command of Canada’s oldest regiment

By Ted Alcuitas

“It is a dream fulfilled for many people, ” says the new commanding general of the Royal Regiment of Canada as he took the reins last Sunday, June 4 .

Lt. Colonel  Joseph Nonato is the first Filipino Canadian to lead one of Canada’s oldest and largest regiments.

For the next three years Nonato, the reservist  who teaches religion at Toronto’s De La Salle College will command the 250 men and woman of the Royal Regiment of Canada.

For the 44-year old father of two, it has become a dream come true.

While studying at the Cardinal Leger high school, he joined the cadet program and finally made it to the highly competitive Royal Military College in Kingston.

“As a young child, Joe took an early interest in the military, ” father Rod told the Toronto Star. Rod, who studied nautical science in the Philippines and aspired to become a marine officer before moving to Canada in 1971, where he met his registered nurse wife, Nancy.

After graduating from the program, Nonato worked for Scotia Bank and went on to become a private school teacher while serving as a primary reservist.

In 2008 he volunteered to serve in Afghanistan serving in Kandahar so he can have front line experience, a decision his mother did not receive well.  He also served in South Sudan in 2012.

 “When you are in reserve, you do a lot of things. If you don’t deploy, it is like practicing for hockey and you never play,” said Nonato, father of two young girls. “And you don’t want to lead other troops without the (front line) experience yourself. It is a credibility thing to me,” he told the Toronto Star in an interview.

Joseph married his wife Sheila Dabu, a former journalist, in 2010. (Our Kids, PHOTO BY: TORY ZIMMERMAN)

After taking command of the Royal Regiment of Canada June 4, Lt. Col. Joseph Nonato paces in front of those he is to lead for the next three years.

After taking command of the Royal Regiment of Canada June 4, Lt. Col. Joseph Nonato paces in front of those he is to lead for the next three years. Photo by Evan Boudreau.

Volunteering to serve overseas is also challenging for a soldier’s family. Nonato is married with two daughters.

“It can be easy to forget the home front, but it’s also a very challenging role to take care of … and to be a strong support for my husband,” said Sheila Nonato. “It can be long days and nights of taking care of the kids (alone). It’s not always easy but it’s an important job, Sheila confided to The Register.

Growing up in Brampton, Ont., the son of Filipino immigrants, Nonato, 44, often heard stories of military life from relatives who served as conscripts in the Philippines armed forces. He joined the cadets while still a freshman at Cardinal Leger Catholic High School and began contacting military academies, fully committed to becoming a soldier. He joined the Canadian Armed Forces fresh out of high school in 1991.